SIR Paulias Matane came to know fellow knight and Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare when they were schoolmates at Sogeri at a time it did not have a national high school.
Sir Paulias recalled he graduated at Kerevat, not at the Sogeri National High School, which used to be a rural high school then.
He and Sir Michael were among the best students around 1961-62 and they became good friends.
Sir Paulias said Sir Michael had always aligned himself with him and Sir Ronald Tovue because they were from East New Britain and Sir Michael considered himself a Tolai.
Sir Paulias became a teacher and then inspector and went up the ranks.
He said Sir Michael went into radio broadcasting.
They met many times and their families became friends as well, gathering for occasions such as birthdays and Christmas parties.
“Our contact was always there,” Sir Paulias said.
“Before Independence, I was sent to the United States where I became the first Papua New Guinean ambassador, so we missed out on independence.
“But that was Sir Michael’s doing, he sent me to the US because he trusted me and this showed the friendship and trust Sir Michael had for me.”
He said when he became the governor-general, they remained aligned.
Sir Paulias said one thing he noticed about Sir Michael was that he always observed protocol.
He described Sir Michael as a respectful man and a very humble man.
“One thing I saw about Sir Michael is he loved the people of Papua New Guinea, no matter where you came from,” Sir Paulias said.
“He loved this country.”
About six months shy of his 90th birthday, Sir Paulias was born on Sept 21, 1931.
His mother was Elsha Toto and his father, Ilias, who was a missionary.
The wars came and went, he saw the cruelties which made him appreciate family, his culture and his people.
He emotionally recalled: “All my children’s children are bubus to him (Sir Michael). If they met him somewhere he always called them bubus and for that, we were always grateful. We are so sad about his passing but unfortunately, this is our way, this is our path, we have to fall.
“When you look at his service, Sir Michael became the chief minister in 1973.
“That was the transition to independence in 1975.
“He then became the (first) prime minister.”
“When you look at all the other people around, there was no one worthy.
“Sir Michael was the right choice to be the prime minister to take PNG in to nationhood.”
Powi heartbroken by children expressing sorrow
GOVERNOR William Powi says pictures of students from remote parts of Southern Highlands with white clay rubbed on their faces as a sign of sorrow in their custom, breaks his heart.
“PNG has truly lost a great man chosen by God,” he said. Powi said he was grateful to the students and people who showed their respect and stood united with the rest of the nation in this time of sorrow.
Hela education adviser Ronny Angu organised his teachers and students to gather at the Andaja Oval, Tari, and paid their respects to the “Founding Father of the Nation”.
Powi said Southern Highlands and Hela were scheduled to attend the haus krai on Monday to represent their 500,000 people, past and current elected leaders and those in Port Moresby.
He appealed to Southern Highlands people in Port Moresby to attend a one-hour meeting on Saturday at noon at Jack Pidik Park or other vacant parks to arrange for funeral attendance on Monday.
“It is important that everyone attends so we identify speakers and organise ourselves properly,” Powi said.
“On Monday, we (should) attend in an organised manner.”
Lutheran head bishop describes Sir Michael as the country’s best leader
By ELIAS LARI
THE head bishop of the Gutnius Lutheran Church of PNG Chief David Piso described Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare as the best leaders in the country.
Piso said Sir Michael was a God-fearing leader who followed the footsteps of Jesus and laid down his life for others.
He said he came to know Sir Michael when he joined the PNG Defence Force and occupied several ranks, including chaplain at the Moem Barracks, East Sepik, in 1974.
Piso said that was a privilege for him to bless and dedicate the PNG flag in 1975 to God in East Sepik after Independence.
Piso said he knew Sir Michael for a long time and believed he was more than a leader who put people first and served them without thinking about his own life.
He described Sir Michael as “Moses” who brought the people out from slavery and led them to God’s promised land.
“I could hardly find a person like him,” Piso said.
“ I believe he was a leader that was chosen by God to lead his people.”